Much attention has been focused on dysfunction associated with high or low approach motivation, or with deficits in effortful control. Recent evidence suggests, however, that it is important to consider these two dimensions jointly. We suggest that high approach motivation is related to externalizing syndromes, low approach motivation is related to internalizing syndromes, and that high effortful control dampens the effects of both of these extremes of approach motivation. We propose to take a multi-level approach to systematically investigate a broad range of internalizing and externalizing syndromes. This project will address two critical gaps: 1) Researchers to date have rarely considered approach motivation and cognitive control jointly. 2) Researchers have not examined how models of approach and effortful control can explain a broad range of both internalizing and externalizing syndromes. To address these gaps, our proposal has three specific aims:
Aim 1 : Investigate associations between neural, behavioural, and self-report indices of approach motivation.
Aim 2 : Investigate associations between neural, behavioral, and self-report indices of effortful control.
Aim 3 : Investigate how the confluence of high approach motivation and low effortful control predict a range of externalizing syndromes in a community outpatient sample.
Aim 4 : Investigate how the confluence of low approach motivation and low effortful control predict a range of internalizing syndromes in the same sample. Knowledge gained will provide information about core motivational and control deficits in psychopathology and their neural basis, and provide an important base for treatment development.
The aims of this project fit NIMH goals of integrating basic research with clinical science to enhance outcomes for those with mental illness.

Public Health Relevance

The goal of this project is to examine the role of two RDOC dimensions, approach motivation and effortful control, using multimodal (neural, behavioral, and self-report) assessments. We propose that tendencies to high approach motivation will be related to externalizing syndromes, whereas low approach motivation will be related to internalizing syndromes, and that low effortful control will exacerbate the influence of both extremes of approach motivation. This study will be the first to examine the interactions of approach motivation and effortful control across a broad range of syndromes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1)
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Prabhakar, Janani
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University of California Berkeley
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Carver, Charles S; Johnson, Sheri L (2018) Impulsive reactivity to emotion and vulnerability to psychopathology. Am Psychol 73:1067-1078
Scheier, Michael F; Carver, Charles S (2018) Dispositional optimism and physical health: A long look back, a quick look forward. Am Psychol 73:1082-1094
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Carver, Charles S; Johnson, Sheri L; Timpano, Kiara R (2017) Toward a Functional View of the P Factor in Psychopathology. Clin Psychol Sci 5:880-889
Johnson, Sheri L; Carver, Charles S; Tharp, Jordan A (2017) Suicidality in Bipolar Disorder: The Role of Emotion-Triggered Impulsivity. Suicide Life Threat Behav 47:177-192